French startup ten ten finds viral success and controversy in reinventing walkie-talkies

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Less than a year after the launch of iOS, French startup ten ten has gone viral with a walkie-talkie app that allows teens to send voice messages to their close friends even when their phones are locked.

Whether you think this is a recipe for disaster or the coolest thing you’ve ever heard depends on your age group, and teens have clearly heard of it long before we did; although walkie-talkies are clearly not a new concept, even in app form. Tientien will do the same, but in 2024.

“We are by nature volatile by design,” said Jule Comar, co-founder and CEO of Ten Ten, in a written interview with JS. He added that 1010 in CB codes means: “Transmission complete, standby.” According to Comar, this is just one of “several meanings that align with our values ​​and the concept.” It seems to resonate; the app is free and is rising quickly in rankings.

Ten Ten’s sudden rise is especially noticeable in France, where it has been downloaded 1 million times. Including on Android, where the app became available a few weeks ago, the app has been downloaded six million times since launch, according to data shared by market intelligence agency Sensor tower with JS on Friday.

The concept can also be adapted along the way. The current UX suggests a limit of 9 friends, but that is not the case. “Ten ten is for good friends, but there is no friend limit. We see people sharing their PINs on social media, so we are working on a better friend management system,” said Comar.

The PINs Comar refers to are the IDs that allow users to find each other. The app also requests access to the user’s contacts (but no one is added without user action). There is inherent virality in this model, but that is not the only growth driver; TikTok “Played an important role,” Comar said.

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Image credits: ten ten

Ten Ten’s download numbers have undoubtedly continued to rise over the weekend: Ten Ten has been all over the French media lately. Not always with a positive twist; For example, the French newspaper Le Figaro called it “worrying.” “I was very surprised,” Comar said. “There’s nothing ‘dangerous’ about ten ten!”

It’s not just articles that portray the app in a negative light; Fake news is also circulating, Comar said. “There were some rumors going around that we were a Chinese app because of the name ‘ten ten’ and we were wrongly accused of ‘spying’ and ‘data stealing’…’

However, ten ten is not Chinese. The company is gone duly registered in France since 2021, which means it is also subject to the GDPR. It’s current conditions are formal, but mention that the team is working on writing better ones. Even more important: that of the startup privacy policy is adamant on two points:

  • All your conversations are ephemeral, we can’t listen to your conversation because we don’t even save them!
  • We will never sell your information!!

In addition to that decision not to sell data, it is unclear how ten ten will make money. “We have a lot of cool ideas about how we can generate revenue down the road,” Comar said. There’s no doubt that their current success will buy them time – and help them secure venture capital to get to that later point.

When asked whether his startup already had funding or was in the process of doing so, Comar replied in the affirmative. But, he added with a smiley face, “we can’t really reveal how many and [from] who else.”

Responding to JS, French VC Hugo Amsellem indicated that while his company Intuition is not one of these backers, he sees ten ten as part of a larger trend among French startups.

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For Amsellem, the common thread is that “France is king when playing status games.” Individuals are trying to increase their social status, and French entrepreneurs are happy to help, whether in the software field BeReal, Yubo or Zenlyor on the hardware side with luxury devices.

It remains to be seen how long ten ten can maintain its cool factor, but the CEO is aware that his current position is both privileged and vulnerable. Comar said:

It’s exciting, it’s a feeling that’s hard to describe but that a lucky few have felt, it feels like everything is going so fast and so slow at the same time, adrenaline mixed with pride, gratitude and responsibilities, you feel big and small at the same time — You can only feel this in social media because it can happen to you when you least expect it and there is no ceiling. But we have to keep our heads on our shoulders, it’s just the beginning, the hardest part is yet to come.

Comar and ten ten co-founder and CTO Antoine Baché have been sleeping very little lately. An automatic response to the smiley warns that they are “having issues with our servers due to a large number of users at the same time” and are “working day and night to resolve it once and for all.”

Aside from the pain of the server, a generation gap is an obstacle that ten companies will have to deal with smartly. In addition to privacy, people often talk about the fact that tenteen is used by teenagers and in classrooms. “When you read these articles it seems like they are talking about a new drug going around at school!” Comar said.

It’s easy to see why teachers were the first adults to notice the app. Because ten ten can bypass a lock screen to play a message out loud, it can be used for pranks and for minor disruptions in classrooms. But teaching phone hygiene isn’t new, and kids are smart enough to figure it out too.

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In a French subreddit for teachers, a discussion It was asked if members had had any problems with tens in classrooms. One participant noted that there have been “no major incidents so far,” despite the app “getting a lot of attention” at their school. But that person added: “I ask students to put their phones on airplane mode.” (We haven’t reached out to verify this person is a teacher, but their profile seems to confirm this is the case.)

Rather than sparking another moral panic, perhaps ten ten could be a chance for parents to marvel at the fact that some of our favorite cultural artifacts are making a comeback; whether that be cassettes, Dungeons & Dragons, or now walkie-talkies.

There’s only one small step from outdated to vintage, and the success of ‘Stranger Things’ probably contributed to that. But app-based walkie-talkies wouldn’t gain any real traction if there wasn’t a real use case around them. Comar thinks so, and that inspired him.

“I’ve always had a group of close friends, we talk every day on multiple mediums, but I felt like they all had some kind of friction,” he said. “I wanted us to be able to communicate as if we were always under the same roof, like roommates: you just come in if you want to say something, if the door is closed you knock, if the door is open you just talk! ”

Hopefully, before ten, parents will also see the value of this. Who knows, they might use it to say out loud that dinner is ready. That is, if their teen accepts them as a contact.

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